Companies are not investing in key factors for growth - Business Works
BW brief

Companies are not investing in key factors for growth

Karl Heiselman, CEO of Wolff Olins A global survey of 500 C-suite (top level) executives by global brand consultancy Wolff Olins has revealed that, although companies recognise the important factors required to generate long-term growth, many are not investing resource and energies into them.

The survey has identified five behaviours associated with high-growth companies, which are successfully responding to rapid changes in consumer demand and technology-driven services. They call these companies 'Game Changers'. The survey explored whether other organisations recognised the importance of these actions and were adopting similar activity in their own companies.

"Traditional ways of doing business are not generating growth and global economies are suffering without it," said Karl Heiselman, CEO of Wolff Olins. "We believe there are very clearly identifiable actions or behaviours associated with high-growth companies such as Amazon, Google, Nike and Paypal that other businesses can use to thrive. Change is daunting, but the opportunities for businesses that adopt these new ways of doing business are enormous."

The following five behaviours of Game Changer companies were identified:

  • Purposeful: having a clear purpose that is shared with customers;
  • Useful: enabling customers to do things better
  • Experimental: constantly innovating and being comfortable living in perpetual beta
  • Boundaryless: fostering collaboration internally and externally
  • Value-creative: adds value by creating new business models and businesses

The survey results showed:

  • On average, 42% of respondents said that each Game Changer behaviour would deliver significant growth (growth of 11% or more). Twenty-two percent thought they would deliver growth of more than 20%

  • Useful (enabling customers to do things better) was rated by respondents as potentially making the biggest contribution to growth. Forty percent believed this activity would contribute more than 20% growth. Twenty-four percent said that it would contribute to growth between 11-20%

  • Companies that are Experimental (constantly innovating) were seen as having the next most significant contribution to growth. Nineteen percent said it would deliver growth of more than 20%

  • The perceived value of behaving like a Game Changer varies greatly across sectors. Banking, Energy, FMCG and Hospitality sectors are the most enthusiastic. Professional Services, Non-profit and Property companies are least likely to associate Game Changer behaviour with growth. Others are divided. Tech and Telecoms see growth in creating new value and experimenting, but less in being Purposeful or breaking down boundaries

Wolff Olins

There is a gap between what people believe is important and what they are actually doing. This is shown in several ways. Across all behaviours most likely to be associated with growth, the top three were all in the category of being Useful to customers:

  • 'Enable customers to create personalised versions of your product' was the behaviour / action most associated with growth, yet only 22% said their business was doing this
  • 'Enable your customers to use your product in flexible and adaptable ways' came second, with only 32% stating their business was doing this
  • 'Involve your customers in your product development process' was the third behaviour / action most associated with growth yet just 31% thought their business was doing this

Most respondents did think, however, that their companies were acting in a socially responsible way, although they are not connecting it to strategic growth. For example, 'Consider transparency to be part of your business' was perceived to be the least valuable to growth, but 47% stated their companies did this anyway, followed by 'Participate in social good', which 46% said their business did.

In follow-up qualitative interviews with respondents, it was found that the global economic uncertainty is affecting growth projections for companies in the short-term, with the majority only willing to project single figure growth this year. As one respondent commented, "There is no such thing as a company being too big to fail".

There was also significant emphasis placed on the importance of building a meaningful relationship with the customer: "If you become a more valuable business to your customers, you become a more valuable business generally".

Wolff Olins

Innovation was recognised alongside customer focus to be a key driver of growth. Having the right people in place to drive innovation was identified as critical: "You can have the best people and even if the market is heading the wrong way, you’ll be growing". It also presents a challenge: "You can’t force people to be innovative. You have to allow them to take risks and fail. When things are going down, people just want to protect their jobs. Ask them to take risks and they won’t."

Heiselman adds, "Game Changers emerged from our desire to understand the new generation of companies enjoying phenomenal success. If these companies and organisations act differently, what is it that they do and are they signs of a healthier future for other companies who want to copy their success, but aren’t necessarily in a position to replicate their business. By identifying the activities that high-growth organisations invest in we can help businesses embrace totally new ways of thinking and doing business so that they not only survive these challenging times but find growth."

The following companies are in the Game Changers report as exemplars of the five behaviours of high-growth companies who are successfully responding to rapid changes in consumer demand and technology-driven services:

  • Amazon, multinational online retailer
  • Apple, multinational corporation that designs and markets consumer electronics
  • Facebook, social network and website
  • Google, multinational internet search engine
  • Grameen Bank, pioneer of microfinance in Bangladesh
  • Intuit, US-based accounting software company
  • LEGO, construction toys
  • M-PESA, a branchless banking service available in Kenya, Afghanistan and Tanzania
  • Nike, sportswear and equipment retailer based in the USA
  • Paypal, online transaction service
  • (RED), charitable giving pioneer
  • Tata Docomo, cellular service provider
  • Tesco, global grocery and general merchandise retailer
  • Zipcar, vehicle sharing company
  • Zopa, UK-based company providing an online money exchange service


Zipcar’s latest figures show quarterly revenue has increased 24% to $68.1 million compared to $54.8 million in the prior year period and total members grew 25% from the prior year period to approximately 650,000.

Mark Walker, General Manager UK for Zipcar, says: "Our business is built on providing a solution to a previously un-met need – giving urban commuters and businesses, with ad hoc transport needs, wheels when they want them. By obsessing about the member experience, we are able to provide convenient access to a car, which is less hassle than owning or renting one; and costs less too. What’s more, because our members drive less – so reducing congestion and pollution – everybody gets to benefit."


Revenue at Zopa was up 62% in the first half of 2011 versus 2010 and Zopa has now lent over £180m in total, lending over 1% of new personal loans each month.

Giles Andrews, Co-Founder and CEO of Zopa, says: "The Game Changer behaviours resonate with us as a business. While people have been lending and borrowing amongst communities for years, we have harnessed social trends to create a new business model that offers people more control over how they save, lend or borrow money, while also offering better value to all parties. As an online business our growth will come from building our membership base and this is driven by the quality and value of the experience we offer users, which is both flexible and transparent."

The full report outlines case studies and practical guidance for companies on how to be Game Changers and is available at:

Tweet article
BW on TwitterBW RSS feed